I read with interest your column on the labor situation at the [Baltimore] Sun [Hot Type, June 27]. As a former reporter and editorial writer with 22 years of dealing with the Sun's management, I think you gave management much too much credit for telling the truth. The quote from Linda Geeson about work rules is just nonsense and captures the problems at the Sun.
No one at the guild ever filed a grievance over a supervisor picking up a pile of newspapers that fell down. This is nothing but folklore that management uses to smear the guild. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and ascribe this to her confusion over which union to complain about. The typographers have a rule that no one but its printers can touch live copy in the composing room. Back when they were pasting up copy it was a cardinal sin to pick up a piece that fell to the floor, move it, or take an X-Acto knife to cut it. The Sun's printers would walk off the job if management touched their copy. The Newspaper Guild never had such an issue over any piece of paper, and I would challenge her to show when such a grievance was filed.
The problem at the Sun is that the paper has suffered from bad and arbitrary management for decades. The guild does not take "frivolous" grievances to arbitrators. They are serious workplace issues over things such as transferring people from the downtown newsroom to suburban bureaus without any cause, contesting the use of a freelancer who was working as a de facto full-time employee, and reinstating workers who have been unjustly fired. If the guild is filing so many "frivolous" grievances, the Sun's management should be asking itself why disinterested third parties often rule against them. Of course the Sun is angry that it continually loses these cases, but it is not because the guild is somehow impeding the paper's productivity and flexibility. It is because of the newspaper's woefully deficient middle and upper management.